Pellegrino as a scientist


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Kathy A. Miles

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I've seen alot of criticism on the board (and other places) for accuracy when it comes to Pellegrino's books. I've found errors myself, some which annoy me, well known statements contributed to the wrong person etc. So I would question his value as an historian, however what about his value as a scientist? I've taken a few oceanography classes in college and his knowledge there seems well founded. I think Ghosts of the Titanic has value in that area if no other. I'm curious what others think about this?

Because I have a few of my Titanic articles on my website with my other regular newspaper column, I often get students asking for references for school projects on Titanic. I've tended to steer them away from Pellegrino, but am reconsidering that at least where oceanographic info is concerned. Any thoughts?
Cheers,
Kathy
 
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Oct 13, 2000
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Kathy, I would agree with you that Pellegrino seems a better marine scientist than a Titanic historian. maybe because he has the educational background for the former, where Titanic is more a hobby for him?

my concern is that all the qualities that make a good historian are even more critical for a scientist. have you done any research in Pellegrino's field to see what his peers think of his scientific work? the answer to that question should speak volumes as to whether you should consider recommending his books or not.

there are probably plenty of other authors who might be better recommendations, in any event. any of Dr. Ballard's books would be a good example. he has written a wide range of books on many topics from geothermal vent exploration to wreck diving. his reputation is considered very solid. I don't think you could go wrong recommending any of his books.

it wasn't entirely clear from your post what grade level your students are. let me know what grade level you are teaching and I will try to come up with some further authors.

all the best, Michael (TheManInBlack) T
 
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Kathy A. Miles

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Thanks Michael, I'm not actually a teacher. I write a weekly earth/space science newspaper column, but I've written some articles about Titanic for the same newspaper. Because the Titanic articles are on the website with the others, students often write. They range in grades from 4th to 12th.

I did chat with someone who is both an oceanographer and into Titanic in a big way, about Pellegrino, in fact he knows Pellegrino well. He didn't seem to want to say much, perhaps he didnt' want to cause any hard feelings. The impression I got was that Pelligrino's background in oceanography was sound, but that he could be "a little too imaginative for his own good sometimes."

I had a high school student wanting to write about the ocean environment around and in Titanic. Obviously I directed them to Ballard, but other than Pellegrino, I don't know of anyone else writing about that topic.

My main concern about Pellegrino is that if he is sloppy in his historical research, is he thusly sloppy with the science side? But then I was wondering if I'm being too harsh and so thought I'd ask a few other people's opinions. I tend to be the type who, when I read something in a book that I know is absolutely wrong, it annoys me and makes me question most everything else in the book, so I tend to be a bit tough.

Thanks,
Kathy
 
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Jul 9, 2000
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>>My main concern about Pellegrino is that if he is sloppy in his historical research, is he thusly sloppy with the science side?<<

While this is possible, I think it's better to simply be mindful of the fact that experstise in one area doesn't translate into another, especially if the two are unrelated. While you may find His Website to be of interest, you might also want to find out what sort of critical review has been made of his non-Titanic works from his peers. If you know somebody at a local university, that might be useful as a starting point.

The Google.com search engine gave me These Links. You might find something useful there.
 
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Inger Sheil

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quote:

My main concern about Pellegrino is that if he is sloppy in his historical research, is he thusly sloppy with the science side?

That's a good point, Kathy. I wouldn't want to comment about his expertise in fields that I know little to nothing about, but your impressions of what your oceanographer friend was expressing are interesting. I'd be intrigued to know if his slipshod historical methodology is echoed in his scientific approach, or if he applies a more stringent standard in his own field. He seems like a pleasant enough, personable man, but has he been seduced by the lures of popular science and history into going for flash and dazzle rather than a more solid approah?

Mike's suggestions re. peer response are a good idea, and I'd be interested in reading about what you discover - given how wide his interests are, I've wondered how his work is regarded in other fields.​
 
Sep 22, 2003
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Ive never read ghost of titanic, is it worth reading? i do have his other titanic book however "Her Name: Titanic" which was pretty good. for the most part w/ titanic i stick to books written by survivors and walter lord, Ballard. though i have made a few exceptions. 1 already mentioned. and also: Oceanus Special Edition 85/86 (this edition dedicated wholly to titanic) and "The Maiden Voyage".
 
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Jesse, about all I can say is after reading the book that you would do well to check any claims for yourself. You might want to read the Critical Reviews for yourself as well. Some of them are not very flattering. Some positively gush about how great the book is.

You may also wish to read All 39 Reviews for "Her Name Titanic." Makw sure you read all of them to get a sense of the mixed reception it's recieved.
 
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Jeremy Lee

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Ghosts of the Titanic is good, but there are lots of scientific stuff which makes it quite difficult for an average reader.....
 
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Kathy A. Miles

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I'd agree with Jeremy, that Ghosts was less Titanic as most books are (complete with multiple historical blunders) and more oceanography. A lot of the science is hard to follow if you don't have a fair understanding of oceanography and related sciences and he gets pretty technical. I'm still just not sure how sound the theories he begins with are.

Cheers,
Kathy
 
Mar 20, 2000
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Ghosts of the Titanic is full of errors of historical fact, imagined conversations and is a prime example of all-round shoddy research. It is a deplorable book.
 
Mar 20, 2000
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On page 234 of "Ghosts of the Titanic," the author claims George Tulloch said that Lucy Duff Gordon was a witness to those now legendary Marconigrams that Bruce Ismay was supposedly waving about to everyone. I have found that Tulloch NEVER said that. It is also untrue that Lucy or Cosmo Duff Gordon ever saw the telegrams in question, nor in fact knew Ismay personally. Cosmo testified at the Inquiry, when asked if he had made any prior arrangement with Ismay for his escape in boat 1 (a ludicrous question), that not only did he not do so but that he had not spoken to Ismay at all ("never in my life," he said).

See under the Passenger Topic (at top of the message board page) the thread "Pellegrino re: Harris/Duff Gordons," which I have just posted to. There you can read some of the other errors I and others have found in "Ghosts of the Titanic." On another thread, Inger Sheil has also gone into various points regarding the want of reliable material in Pellegrino's books. She may be able to direct you to that. In addition Tracy Smith has written at length about mistakes Pellegrino makes regarding Stanley Lord and the Californian.
 
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Inger Sheil

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Off hand, some of the worst examples of invented dialogue and internal thought processes came between the wireless operators in Her Name Titanic. Virtually all the banter between Phillips and Bride is the product of the author's imagination (including the bizarre references to jokes involving a raft made of condoms). Bride's supposed thoughts about what he is experiencing are particularly frustrating and irritating - they include Murdoch suiciding. And then there are Lightoller's supposed thoughts about the murderous ship as she goes down, dragging him with her...(very deliberate use of gender here even beyond the English tradition of giving ships the female gender, as Pellegrino's Lightoller has some choice gender-based pejorative words he uses to describe the vessel).

Even if Pellegrino had uncovered new sources, his play it fast'n'loose attitude towards the historical record calls his material into doubt, leading to further frustration. For example, he attributes a quote to Lightoller that has since run rampant on the internet about hearing people call out 'I love you' to each other as the ship sank. There is no attribution for this quote - and no reason why Lightoller would have ommitted such a dramatic and poignant detail in his memoirs. What, then, is the source? Possibly a legitimate one, but - given the welter of invented lines he gives people - is this another example of putting dramatic fiction in the mouths of people who were there? How are we to seperate Pellegrino's inventions from Pellegrino's facts? In another example, he gives a specific and very youthful age to the young male who attempted to enter Boat 14 and was ejected. Yet this 'fact' has never been established and remains the subject of controversy. It's an example of how, even in comparatively small details, Pellegrino indulges in invention.
 
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Jeremy Lee

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Pellegrino has to find some way or the other to spice up his story (By inventing facts)! But in my opinion, his books are not bad to read especially to kill time....... as a work of fiction!

>>(including the bizarre references to jokes involving a raft made of condoms)<< I didn't know condoms existed in 1912!
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Jul 9, 2000
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The oldest known illustration of a condom goes back 3000 years to ancient Egypt. You might want to check out This Website for more. Not really much of a shock since people have always tended to want to enjoy their "whoopee" without all the consequences that can come with the deal.

Beyond that, we might not want to go into any greater detail as this is supposed to be at least a PG rated forum.
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